Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Duker's Got You Covered!

That was the phrase that most of us identify with “Big Bob Stoehr” aka “Duke Roberts”, who began his second run at CHUM (he'd been “Gary Duke” in the late 60's) in 1973.  Duke was from Scranton, PA, I believe his family owned some furniture stores there.  He brought with him an impressive resume which included some of the premiere stations in some of the top markets of the day.  Stations like WIBG in Philly, CKLW in Detroit, KFRC, San Francisco and many others.  He had a BIG voice, and was considered quite a catch when Bob Wood convinced him to return to CHUM.  Even with the track record he brought to the station, he fit into “The family” like a glove.  No ego issues with this guy, he was one of the gang from day one!

Duke was cut from the same mold as Terry Steele, a straight ahead, no nonsense kind of performer with an uncanny knack for communicating with listeners on a one to one basis.  The most important quality a top-40 jock could have at the time was the ability to “tune in” to what the listener might have been thinking or experiencing at the time, and to paint word pictures in their minds.  These are qualities that are sadly lacking in today's radio environment.  Duke was a master at saying just the right thing in as few words as possible.   He could communicate one-on-one and get his message across over the 10 second intro of a song every time, and do this over and over again.  To sum it up, Duke was the perfect afternoon drive radio personaality!

Duker didn't hang with the rest of us much.   He didn't drink as far as I know, so he never attended the many beer soaked “meetings” at the Red Rooster.  Likewise he never showed for the post staff meeting get togethers at Seniors restaurant on Wednesdays.   With anyone else that would've implied a prima donna attitude but not with Duke, the guy was friendly and approachable at all times, and we all thought the world of him.  Duke was never seen without the company of a gorgeous babe on his arm.   He was a good looking, personable guy who attracted beautiful women like a magnet, but eventually settled down and married his Canadian girlfriend Betty Lou.

Duke could be a little weird, though.   He had a Doberman Pincer he called “Little Duker” that he used to bring with him to the station for some reason.  My old op Rick Murray swears that, when Little Duker was a pup, he stepped outside to encounter Duker teaching the dog the proper way to take a leak on a bush!  Hey, I'm just telling what I was told!

Duke has always regarded his time at CHUM as the best of his long radio career.  As he told the “Rock Radio Scrapbook” website:

“1050/CHUM was the finest station and company that I ever worked for, both before and after.  And that's looking back from today, both as Gary Duke and Duke Roberts, just three years apart in 1973.  When I see Warren's List mail and CFTR jocks talking about all of the fun they had on the air, all I can say is WE at CHUM had fun and discipline and we all treated it like a business.  Maybe they weren't as blessed as myself, getting to work for JRW (J. Robert Wood) and 1050/CHUM more than once."

All that is true, we were a disciplined bunch and damned happy to be there as well.  But Duker, for cryin' out loud, the dog could've taught himself!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Bear... Terry Steele

My best friend at the station arrived on the heels of yet another Rivers departure. I'm trying to remember, and I think it was when Tom took his detour to San Diego.   Bob Wood was meticulous when it came to choosing talent for the station.  It was not unusual for a shift to be open for a month or more while he carefully evaluated the many tapes that he'd accumulated from monitors in various cities across North America.  With Terry, however I'm told the decision was reached very quickly.   Bob liked what he heard, and brought Terry in as soon as possible. It was the right move, Terry was a one of a kind talent.

Jim Stromberg hailed from the Washington, DC area.  He'd apparently spent some time in the Navy, was discharged due to an injury and wound up getting a job back home on WINX radio in Rockville, MD.  From there he made his way south to the legendary WNOR Norfolk, and eventually to CHUM.  He was a big guy, with a bushy beard... everybody called him “The Bear” because he was as hairy as one.  He had a great sense of humor, and would break out in uncontrolled laughter at almost any ribald comment.   When I met the guy he shook my hand so hard it damn near came off.   He had a high energy, no nonsense approach on the air and impeccable timing.   These are GREAT talents to have when you were working a fast paced, night-time show.

Terry took Rivers' old 6-9 slot, and preceded me on the air.  One author at the time referred to us in his book as “The greatest one-two punch in rock radio.”  We owned the Toronto market from six until midnight.  There was barely a single teenager who didn't know our names, most of them listened to us every night and even took their transistor radios to bed with them, such was the power of the CHUM brand.

Unlike Tom Rivers, Terry was somewhat reticent when it came to personal relationships with other air staff.  He was unlikely to wade into a friendship until he was very certain.  Many people in the radio industry are like that, perhaps because of the volatile nature of radio employment or the fact that very often someone who seems like your friend will turn around and stab you in the back.   I consider myself fortunate that Terry and I became best friends very quickly.

Terry didn't focus on humor or schtick like most of us, he was a straight ahead, balls-to-the-walls, rock-n-roll DJ.  CHUM's former Production Director, Warren Cosford says of him "On the air, Terry may not have been as funny as Jay Nelson, as creative as Tom Rivers, or as flashy as Scott Carpenter.  In the studio on tape, he wasn’t as smooth as Walter Soles and Ron Morey, or as versatile as John Rode.  But Terry Steele was consistent and solid.  He was the quarterback when everyday was the Superbowl!  He was "Terrible Terry, The Bear in the Airchair from the Big House on Yonge Street".  Working with him made you better.  He had a kind of Majesty."

I don't know about “majesty”, but he sure as hell had a sense of humor!  We concocted a kind of rivalry on the air... a constant, running bitch-slap back and forth.  We were often asked, privately of course, if we hated each other.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Kind of like professional wrestlers, we'd cook up our latest slew of insults over beers at the Red Rooster.  We'd carry the ruse over to appearances where we'd dish out wise cracks to one another in front of 20,000 people.  It was HUGE fun.

Terry and his wife Leslie bought a cabin on Six Mile Lake in the Muskokas.   I'd occasionally take my mini-houseboat up there and hook up with them and Brad Jones who later became Program Director of CHUM, but at the time was known as “The King of the Muskokas” with his hopped up, Sidewinder sports-boat.   We'd toss back brews and cook up new, improved ways of getting on Bob Wood's nerves!

Terry was Jewish, but you'd never have known it.  At our weekly, post-meeting breakfasts at Senior's Restaurant he'd order up the biggest plateful of bacon and eggs you've ever seen.  When asked about that he'd respond “Who the hell do you think I am, Hymie Lipschitz?”   The guy had a laugh that could shake a mountain off it's foundation.   He was definitely one of a kind.

Like many people in the business, Terry seemed to lose his way in the 80's.  He left CHUM in 1985, and never again attained the kind of profile he'd had while there.  None of us did, really.  Some of us were luckier than others though, unfortunately Terry was one of the unlucky ones.

He began to drink heavily, and wound up at one point driving a cab in Honolulu.  Bob Wood brought him back to Toronto and offered to pay for rehabilitation.  Terry told Bob he couldn't do it.  In 1993, while in Tucson, I got a call from Warren Cosford.  Terry had been found dead in his bathtub.   The story at the time was that he'd fallen and hit his head, family members told me otherwise.  Apparently his liver just gave out and he died right there.   Terry's family was extremely close.  I knew his cousin Millicent Stromberg quite well when I worked in New York, when I called her to express my condolences she was inconsolable. Terry's death had an enormous impact on his family.

The call from Warren served as a huge wake up call for me back in '93.  The best friend I'd ever had in radio was dead, and I was certain it was radio that had killed him.  I knew then and there I had to get out.

But back in 1972, there were a few adventures yet to come!

Some comments on this post from other friends of Terry Steele:

The Bear was one of my mentors. He wasn't as actively a mentor as Mark Dailey and John Majhor where. But he had a knack for saying just the right thing that would make you feel on top of the world and brimming with confidence in your performance.

I can tell you there was one respect where Terr Bear wore his Jewishness on his sleeve. He always made sure he was working Christmas day so the other guys could have the day off.

It was tragic to see his decline and then his death. I was at his funeral... Which, of course, being as he was Jewish, happened within 24 hours of his death.

The first times I ever was heard on CHUM was with Terry Steele and another time with Scott Carpenter. CHUM ran a school spirit thing where Metro schools competed to raise money for the United Way. CHUM aired reports from students of these schools and I was chosen to do two reports for my school, George Vanier Secondary in North York. I still have cassette tape of both reports around somewhere.

That piece is a fantastic memorial to Our Bear, Pat.

Posted by Bruce Marshall

I have a picture of the Bear and I sitting on the verandah at my family's cottage. It sits right behind me here in the studio and I look at it EVERY day. That weekend Jimmy and I taught his older daughter Nicki how to waterski. Strommy was often over at our house...or I was over there at his. My 5 year old son just called him "the Bear". "Hi the Bear." Jimmy thought that was hilarious.

On Sunday morning of that cottage weekend we got up early [for us] and putted around the shoreline of the lake at about 4 or 5 miles an hour waving to everyone we saw...whether I knew them or not. All the while we assured ourselves that *they* were all beyond overjoyed to see us...because...we were *US*.

We weren't Terry Steele and Lee Marshall....we were just two guys that enjoyed the heck out of our little 'schtick'. "We're *us*...and *they* all wanted us to stop so that they can give us a drink...or introduce us to whomever that is in the bikini on the dock. I guess you had to be there...but were roared with laughter way past the point of our bellies hurting.

One time at his cottage we got on the cb radio and pestered some poor truckers down in the Southern U S of A. If any of those guys had ever found us...we'd have paid a heavy price. Gawd we laughed.

Then there was the fishing expedition up to the French River. That weekend included a huge poker game. Finally I got a good hand. But I had to a racehorse. Jimmy and I both loved those rums and cokes. Too much I guess. He wouldn't let me put my cards down in the middle of the hand. I either played it out...or I had to fold. I pissed my pants. [but I won]

Jimmy was the best man at my wedding. He had a heart the size of all outdoors. He was warm, funny and like me a wrestling fanatic who also loved to hop on a motorcycle and tour the smaller highways north of Toronto. We bowled together on Saturday the only "goyim" in the entire league...and always headed out with our ladies for a post bowling feast at some nifty restaurant.

When The Bear moved to was like a major void fell over my day to day living. When he returned to Toronto I was overjoyed. He always matter matter when...even if we don't talk all the while..."we're US." "Lad and Son."

VOICE 1 was a real mensch. I loved him...and I miss him terribly.

Lee Marshall

Terry and I worked together briefly at KEY 590 in 1991. I found him to be very warm and open, not to mention talented (I of course had listened to him sporadically when I was in Buffalo and he was at CHUM), but with one interesting "quirk." He hated non-broadcast types in the studio or control room watching him on the air. Unlike many of the rest of us who are uncontrollable hams and love performing for an audience, Terry was quite the opposite, and when I had a close friend from the U.S. visiting one night, he asked me to have her wait in the lobby until he was done with his shift (which of course I did).

Posted by Don Berns

That comment reminds me of the one time I encountered him. It was also the early 90's when he was doing drive on KEY590 and the promotions guy was touring me and a buddy around. As we entered the studio area we could hear his raucous off air remarks to his producer accompanied by that aforementioned laugh. He then asked the promotions guy if he was bringing more of those "damn sales types" in and when told we were on air people, he bellowed "Well then, come on in!" We did and he actually spent quite a few minutes chatting with us between breaks. Too bad his personal demons ultimately got the better of him but he did give many people within earshot some great radio during his time.

I was Terry's traffic chick/co host at EZ...his last gig. He was a wonderfully funny guy and I loved going to work every afternoon to hang out with him. I was going to Montreal for a long weekend and before I left I told him that he didn't look so great - he was looking a wee bit yellowish and I was worried. We said our goodbyes, see you on Monday yadayayda. I got a call Sunday night that Terry had died. I always wonder what would have happened if he went to a Dr. to check himself out. I still miss Terry too.

While at Humber College I made an appointment to see Roger Ashby at CHUM. It was a cold somewhat snowy afternoon, Roger met me at the reception then took me on a tour of the station. First stop? 1050 studios..and I met "THE BEAR, LIVE ON THE AIR". Indeed he was so pleasant to meet and speak with. Probably because, as has been mentioned before here, Terry didn't seem to mind if you were in the biz..if you weren't? Oh well.
He was asking me about if we were using gated compression and other technical things. The fact is..Terry was a REAL gentleman to me, a 19 year old wanna-be. This was 1974. I will never ever forget that meeting. Terry was first class. Thanks to Roger for giving me his time, that day, as well. All the folks at CHUM were first class. Anyone tells you otherwise, tell em' come and see me!
Cheers everyone.

Terry was one of the many greats at 1050 CHUM. It was a privilege to do newscasts on his shows and he'd always sit in the booth and listen and react to what I was doing.
He called me "triple-scale" because as did he , I did a fair amount of voice work, both on the CHUM year enders and for other stations in the chain.
He told me before he died that when he was gone, I could have his "voice one" identity and I honour him by using that as one of my email addresses.
I remember plenty of fun nights at Jingles and the "Crimson Cock" as the CHUM jocks and newsies got together to "hoist a few."
One of the unique and talented people with whom I've had the good fortune to know and to work with, he'll never be forgotten.

Posted by Mike Cleaver

Cheryl and I hosted a house party on the Saturday of Victoria Day weekend, circa 1987, maybe '88.
We had friends visit from Ottawa and when I posted a notice on the bulletin board at CKEY that all were invited, we were secretly hoping maybe a dozen or so would show up. Instead, we had more than twice that number (we had one clique at 'EY and everyone was part of it). Even though we worked opposite shifts of the clock, were delighted the Bear attended -- and he was larger than life all night long (and the next day, as he crashed on our sofa)!

Another time, the Bear, John Rode, Don McDonald and I decided to dine at an Indian restaurant on Yonge St. Terry sent his order back THREE TIMES because the curry wasn't hot enough. He was melting like the Wicked Witch of the West but loved every minute of it!!

I was in California when I heard of his passing. I miss his laughter and do-anything-for-ya attitude to this day... 

Posted by Chris Mayberry

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Meester Reevers

People often ask me about the CHUM environment.  After all here was a station that could influence thousands of record sales simply by printing the name of the song on the CHUM Chart.  They inevitably want to know about the promotions, the contests, the physical layout of the place... they're usually shocked to hear that I couldn't care less about any of that.  To me the secret of CHUM's success was “the family.”  A close group of people who were far more than colleagues, we were best friends... lifetime friends, really.  I have never seen this in any other radio station.

Tom Rivers was the first person I met at CHUM.  As I was touring the place for the first time, I encountered him in the hall. He was tall, well over 6 feet, and had the goofiest grin I'd ever seen on a face in my life.  He had a way of looking both quizzical and amused at the same time, as if he was thinking “I have no idea who this person is or what this person is saying, but it's funny as hell!”  Tom was as irascible as he was talented.  Many consider Tom the best air talent they'd ever heard.  For most people, that would've been plenty but not Tom, nooooooo Tom had to be the omnipresent thorn in the side of management.  Name a management directive and Tom would break it.  Name a programming rule and Tom would ignore it, all the while grinning that goofy, quizzical grin of his as if to say “You CAN'T be serious!”

Let's take the “proper dress” episode for example.  One day, for whatever reason, Bob Wood decided that we were to wear dress clothes to work.  Since this was radio and not TV nobody ever figured this one out, but the dress code was imposed anyway.  Now imposing a dress code on Rivers was akin to planting a boot in an attack dogs ass.   We knew it was a matter of time until the battle of wills began.  Sure enough, one day I was relaxing at home when the phone rang.  “Ahhhhh, Scotty?  Rivers isn't dressed properly for his shift, can you get down to the station right away?  I'm pulling him off the air.”  I found some “proper” clothing and high-tailed it down to the station.   This scene repeated itself for an entire week with Rivers showing up in jeans, being shown the door, and me having to come in to do his show.  One day I heard Rivers on the air, and hurried down to the station to see who had won.  There he was, in jeans, sloppy Tee-Shirt and flip flops with that damned, stupid grin on his face.   The “dress code” was never addressed again.  Good thing too, since Rode was threatening to come in wearing a pinstripe suit, flowered tie and a fedora!

Then there was the “no eating while on the air” edict.   Apparently Bob had read that digesting food caused a person's energy level to drop, which shouldn't have been too surprising to anyone who'd ever downed a Big mac and tried to stay awake.  At any rate, Rivers was not about to concede to THIS ignominy.  Devouring large orders of food from the “Crow's Nest” across the street was akin to a religious ritual with Rivers.   They'd answer the phone and as soon as they knew he was on the other end say “AHHHHHH, MEESTER REEVERS!!!!”   They knew they were going to make some serious cash, three hamburgers and a HUGE order of “chips and gravy” were a daily habit with him... he was a junkie!  No sooner was the edict issued than Rivers settled into his seat, picked up the phone and ordered a 7 course meal delivered from the gourmet restaurant down the street.   As Tom was relishing his feast, Bob stuck his head in the door and saw the massive number of plates on the desk.   “Enjoying your meal Tom?”  Tom smiled his goofy grin in response.  The “no eating” order soon hit the skids too.

Next was the legendary “Parking Lot Caper” in which Wes Armstrong, the station's sales manager decided that he'd had enough of Rivers' constant violation of the rule which forbade jocks from parking in the station's, tiny lot.  Only management and sales people were allowed spaces there and Wes would dutifully patrol it, attaching stickers to the windshields of offenders.  The damned things were nearly impossible to get off, and naturally Rivers had accumulated about 100 of them.  One day Rivers parked in the lot as usual, but this time climbed up to the roof so he could see Wes come out with his handful of stickers.  As soon as Wes opened the door, Tom signaled to his partner in crime... I believe it was a jock called “Smilin' Jack” something or other... to yell out that Wes had a phone call waiting.  Wes went back into the building only to find that there was no call after all.  Instantly, he knew he'd been had.  He ran out back to discover River's car gone, and his own car plastered from front to back with stickers and all the air let out of his tires.

During the "American Graffiti" inspired 50's craze I ran dances at local schools.  Rivers played the iconic personification of 1950's ethos, "Commander Grease."  He'd dress up in Chinos, and an ESSO shirt with a pack of Players rolled up in the sleeve.  With the spotlight on him, and the refrains of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" roaring in the background, he'd light up a smoke, pull out a tube of Brylcream and proceed to dump the whole thing on his head, ending with a flourish just as the last notes played triumphantly.  Then he'd stand there in the light with his dumb-assed grin as the crowd went berserk!

Rivers either quit, or was fired 5 or 6 times from the station.  Once he decided he wanted to move to California, so he “borrowed” one of the CHUM News Cruisers and drove to San Diego where he called Bob to resign.   Roger Ashby had to fly out to recover the car.

Tom's life went into decline in later years, at one point he filed a wrongful dismissal suit against CHUM.  At the 50th reunion, I recorded some bits with him, I was shocked at his appearance.  The bottle had definitely taken it's toll, he was unkempt, was missing a couple of teeth, and seemed out of touch.  Within a year he'd turned his life around completely.  He looked healthy, clean and well groomed.  He'd beaten the bottle, married his long-time sweetheart Nancy Krant, and been hired for a talk show at an Oakville radio station.  I appeared on the show with him a couple of times, and we fielded calls from many former listeners.  Sandee and I visited with him and Nancy at their cottage near Peterborough.  Ultimately Tom landed back on the air at CHUM.  The last time we spent time together was at a Chuck Berry Tribute show back in 2004, a few weeks later I learned that Tom had passed away from cancer.

Everybody that knew Tom loved him.  You couldn't help it really, he was the kind of guy that you couldn't dislike.  I remember him writing how he'd visited his old nemesis Wes Armstrong in the hospital just before Wes passed away.  He wrote how he'd left Wes' bedside and cried all the way home.

I'm sure that Wes, back in 2004, looked down on Tom from Heaven and shed a tear or two himself.